Getting a screenplay down on paper is difficult, there’s no doubt about
that. Yes, you search endlessly for that “different” story, for that unusual and fantastic arena that you are sure no one else has done or will do.
Writers often try to find and create unique situations that are so far out
That they bear little or no resemblance to real life or real people. Trying
to be unusual can be a trap for new writers as well as established pros.
Great screeenplays and films have legs. That means that people will
want to see the movie over and over again. They might want to bring
their friends, or rent the film on DVD, or purchase a copy to own.
The secret for writing a great screenplay is not in finding the rare
situation, it is in writing with the following high standards:
1. Character Arc - No one wants to stay with a film or screenplay if the
main character does not grow internally, does not learn something
important about him or herself and does not become a better, smarter or
move loveable person. Whether the film is BOOTY CALL or anything
by Jane Austin, you will notice the growth of the star character, and love them for it.
2. Underlying Theme: A great movie is not about the plot. It is about
what is going on underneath. It is about something emotionally
important or with a universal problem of great significance. Jim Carrey’s MASK is about the insecurities of all people. It is about the main character’s feelings of inadequacy’s and personal fears. You must find a way to touch something that can affect the collective and often
unconscious needs of people in general. Even the animated classic,
BAMBI, is about all of our fears of abandonment.
3. Dialogue: I believe that it was the great actress, Helen Hays who once said “If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage.” Nothing in a screenplay is as bad as boring dialogue. You must learn to write characters that speak with a unique voice. They must jump off of the page with personality, wit and exceptionally clever ways of saying things. Each character in the piece needs to have a distinct personal quality and voice.
4. Pacing: If your pacing is slow, or worse, if it is repetitive, you will
lose your reader in just a few pages. Keep the story moving forward like
a shark in the water, never stopping, never holding back or over analyzing itself.
5. Likeability of Main Characters: If the reader cares about the people
in the story, they will want to go forward with the script. Likeability is
more difficult to explain than it appears on its face. Sean Penn’s
character in the 1995 film, DEAD MAN WALKING, is an obnoxious
murderer. By the end of the movie, the audience understands him and
has some sympathy for the child that he was and the unhappy adult he
Certainly there are more facets to a good screenplay then the above
and those you will learn in film schools and books on the subject. The
professional looking format, the short exposition, etc. mean quite a bit.
However if you want to raise the standard of excellence in your writing, I suggest you concentrate heavily on seeing if the above 5 points are well covered in your next project. These 5 points will separate you from the crowd, they will turn a comedy, thriller, drama, family film or love storyinto a GREAT SCREENPLAY.
Web site: www.Novelconsultant.com
Copyright 2009 Michele Wallerstein. Not be used without written permission from Author.